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Obama reaffirms commitment to Israel in Sharon message

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to Israel’s security in his condolence message on the death of Ariel Sharon.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel,” Obama said Saturday morning, within hours of the announcement of the death of Sharon at 85.

“We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples,” the statement said. “We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country.”

Recent months have seen tensions flare between the governments of Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how best to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and how to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.

Sharon left office in 2006 after a stroke, months after he orchestrated Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a policy that led Netanyahu to leave the government at the time.

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